One of the great things about the scene at Del Mar is that there’s so much to enjoy at the track. On a Saturday morning, you can get up early and watch horses take their exercise while enjoying free donuts and coffee, and then you can spend the afternoon exploring the track and everything it has to offer.
I woke up bright and early Saturday morning (partially due to jet lag, I must admit) and headed over to Del Mar to watch some morning workouts. There’s something so soothing about going to the track in the morning: no matter where you go, there’s a sense of calm, with horses enjoying their daily routine while the humans around them work. Catch up on racetrack gossip and just enjoy the beauty of the morning.
Another great thing about going to the track in the morning is that you never know what or who you’re going to see. I managed to take this photo of the miraculous Paynter, the horse who overcame a life-threatening illness to re-emerge in top races. He’s the horse in the lead galloping in the photo below with the blue and yellow checked saddle towel:
I also spotted Dullahan; he won last year’s Pacific Classic, and he’s in town to try for a repeat win in this year’s edition:
But perhaps my happiest encounter of the morning was with this guy:
His name is Hiccup (which is a fantastic name for a pooch) and I love him tremendously. I’d never met him before but as I walked past his barn he looked at me and then just marched up, stood in front of me and leaned on my legs. He’s clearly a well-loved dog, otherwise I would have seriously considered a pup-napping.
That’s the thing about visiting a stable area of a racetrack, you get a sense of just how much love and attention go into the care of the animals here. These critters are fiercely loved by the people who take care of them, and it’s always wonderful to see the bond between the humans and horses in the stable.
After taking in the scene on the backside (I’m not being gross when I say that, by the way! The “backside” refers to the stable area of the track, not someone’s anatomy) I headed over to the grandstand, lured by the promise of free donuts. And I wasn’t disappointed. There were simply acres of breakfast pastry. I was in heaven!
After tucking in to donuts and helping myself to some coffee as well, I headed back to my hotel for a quick shower before returning to the track for an afternoon of fun.
When I arrived back at Del Mar, the first half of my day was dedicated to watching the action out of Saratoga. They had a huge day Saturday, which included such major races as the Test, the King’s Bishop, the Ballston Spa and the Travers. The Travers is known as the “mid-summer Derby,” and with good reason: it’s traditionally a race that includes the nation’s top 3-year-olds, and this year was no exception. Will Take Charge emerged the victor, sticking his nose in front of Moreno and third-place finisher Orb.
After drinking in the excitement of Saratoga via the television, it was time for me to appreciate the action at Del Mar in person! I started out by heading to the world’s largest Instagram meetup, which just so happened to be at the track. More than 1,500 participants showed up, and there was some seriously awesome style on hand. The vibe was rockabilly-chic, with tons of pin-up inspired looks and retro ensembles.
There were vintage touches everywhere, ranging from classic cars to 1940s and ’50s-era furniture and, of course, hats!
In addition to enjoying the festive atmosphere, folks at the meetup were having fun taking in the races themselves, cheering on horses and cashing tickets.
It was great to see so many new people at the track, and everyone seemed to be having a blast and loving the Del Mar scene.
After taking in the meetup scene, I headed back over to the paddock just in time to find Dullahan schooling for Sunday’s Pacific Classic. He’s such a big, good-looking horse, and he’s my pick for tomorrow’s race.
I also caught sight of Paynter again; his next race will be next Saturday at Saratoga in the Woodward Stakes, and he looks ready to run!
The featured race of the afternoon was the Del Mar Handicap; this is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race, meaning that the victor would be granted an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf. There were seven seriously talented contenders in the race, and the test came down to the wire with Vagabond Shoes gutting it out to win by a half-length. I can’t wait to see him again in November at the World Championships!
With that, my Del Mar day was done. I’m so, so excited to bring you the sights from tomorrow’s Pacific Classic day here, and in the meantime I’ll leave you with some more photos of beautiful Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.